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Name that Kansas ghost town! - July 25, 2014

Q: Historically, Kansas has been a laboratory for all kinds of social experiments. One of those experiments began back in 1856 when a group of settlers -- called the “Vegetarian Kansas Emigration Company” -- tried to build an all-vegetarian colony in southeast Kansas. The experiment lasted about a year. What was the name of the town this group hoped to turn into a vegetarian utopia?

Vegetarian MeiTengOctogon City organizers hoped the town would become an international community full of moral people who pledged to educate their children and refrain from consuming meat, alcohol and tobacco. (Photo by MeiTeng)


 

A: Octagon City… (So named because of the octagonal style architecture the townspeople hoped to use while building their homes and town square, or… town octagon.)

OctagonCityOctagon City's design was inspired by a 'scientific' idea, suggested by famous phrenologist Orson Squire Fowler, that octagons were the most practical design for homes as they permitted the most amount of light to enter. This is a design of Fowler's from his magazine about phrenology.

Initially, town organizers hoped Octagon City would become an international community full of moral people who pledged to educate their children and refrain from consuming meat, alcohol and tobacco. In the end, it was a failed social experiment. The town was founded in 1856, in Allen County, by the Vegetarian Kansas Emigration Company.

HenryClubbThe Vegetarian Kansas Emigration Company was headed by prominent vegetarian Henry Clubb.The company was headed by prominent vegetarian Henry Clubb. One goal was to make the entire community sustainable, putting this group of settlers 100 plus years ahead of their time. The city's design was influenced by Orson Squire Fowler, a leading advocate of octagon house architecture. Octagon City was supposed to feature an octagonal town square from which would radiate eight roads. Between the roads, families would build octagonal farmhouses with octagonal barns. About 100 settlers arrived in May 1856. But by 1857, only four of the original residents remained.

With the nearest economic center some 50 miles away in Fort Scott, it was tough going for the early town residents. Illness, malnutrition and bad weather worked against them, and so did the perceived threat of attack from Border Ruffians and Indians. Nothing survives of the settlement except the tributary Vegetarian Creek.

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